News / Toronto

New report details how Toronto can reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The Ryerson report, It's Cool to be Smart, recommends different ways to build density.

Ryerson University's Graham Haines says the best way to build an environmentally friendly city is to increase density.

File / Torstar News Service Order this photo

Ryerson University's Graham Haines says the best way to build an environmentally friendly city is to increase density.

It’s time to think about what makes for an environmentally friendly city, according to a new report. While suburban developers dominate the discussion about Ontario’s Growth Plan, Ryerson University’s Graham Haines says we don’t talk enough about the benefits. The research manager at the school’s City Building Institute has penned a new paper, It’s Cool to be Smart, hoping to change that. We spoke to Haines about how the city can accommodate growth, increase housing and transit accessibility and decrease greenhouse-gas emissions.

More density

Haines says the best way to build an environmentally friendly city is to increase density. He recommends increasing the 40 per cent intensification target to 60 per cent, which would mean an additional 650,000 people in GTA urban areas rather than green fields.

Connect transit to people

Haines has a specific recommendation for transit: build stations where there are already people. Rather than surrounding a GO station with parking lots to attract ridership, build it to communities where enough people live within walking distance to justify it. If a family near a transit station can ditch one car, that’s an annual savings of $10,000, Haines wrote.

Everyone loves shorter commutes

Increased density means shorter commutes. Not only does that save time getting to work, but it’s good for the environment, too. Haines writes that reducing 10 kilometres from a round-trip car commute reduces personal greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 per cent a year.

Not just tall towers

Haines says building a more environmentally friendly city doesn’t just mean skyscrapers. “It doesn’t have to be tall towers,” he said. “We can add a lot of density with things like stacked housing.” Haines points to research showing this kind of housing results in 10 per cent lower greenhouse-gas emissions than single-detached neighbourhoods.

Look to old neighbourhoods

Haines pointed to old Toronto neighbourhoods as examples of “gentle density” that works, including the Annex, Cabbagetown and the Beach. He added that the city should look at updating its zoning in order to add this type of housing in more neighbourhoods.

More on Metronews.ca